“Cancer—I Am Beating It”
ROSE MARIE is a very happy, outgoing Texan in her 60’s. She first discovered that she had a tumor in 1964, about the time of her menopause. Here she tells her encouraging story:
When I first noticed that I had a lump in my breast, I was concerned as to what it might be. So my husband took me to the hospital for a checkup. That was the scary part—sitting and waiting for the verdict. When I was eventually told that I might have cancer of the breast, I remember feeling as if someone had kicked me in the stomach. Then started a period of indecision—which course should we take? Some doctors were urging surgery, and others recommended alternative treatment. How did we decide?
My husband talked with a doctor friend who said that while most lumps in the breast were benign, there was the possibility that it might be malignant. So the option was, should we take our chances and delay surgery or should we immediately have the offending lump removed? We decided together that I would accept the surgery. The lump was removed and declared nonmalignant. I breathed a sigh of relief.
In 1965 I discovered another lump in the same breast. This was a setback but not a defeat. I had surgery once more, and that lump was also benign. Figuratively, I held my breath as everything went well for two years. Then, in 1967, a third lump appeared in the same breast. The doctors ordered a careful biopsy and came up with malignancy. The breast would have to be removed. Thus, a month later I had a “simple” mastectomy.
Eight years passed without any further problems. I began to feel I had beaten the cancer. But in 1975 I found a lump in my other breast. In view of my past history, the doctors opted for a mastectomy of that breast. To be sure that the cancer did not spread, they also ordered a series of radiation treatments. I must admit that this procedure scared me. Why was that?
Each time, I had to wait with other people who were also having radiation treatment. They had their faces and bodies marked up with red dye as targets for the radiation gun. That was an unsettling sight. Then I had to go into this special radiation room on my own. It all seemed so eerie because I knew there was this invisible force destroying my tissue, malignant and good at the same time. Anyway, I had 30 radiation treatments in the course of about 15 weeks. Since then, I have only needed two minor surgery interventions for benign tumors on my back and head.
Strength to Survive
I am truly thankful still to be alive 22 years after my first tumor appeared. What has helped me to keep going during these trials? First of all, my supportive husband. He made arrangements to accompany me to the hospital each time, including for all the radiation treatments. I feel that you certainly need to have a good friend or relative supporting you when you go to a hospital. But it has to be a strong, positive person, not a sentimentalist. I weep easily, and I do not need someone who encourages me in that respect.
I also found that my doctors were a great help. We were very fortunate to have Dr. James Thompson, one of the best back then. He had a warm bedside manner even right there in the operating room. He was also frank about my condition, without being brutal and blunt.
I learned not to dwell on my situation. I have always filled my mind and my life with interests and activities. I love to read, but the stories have to have happy themes. I do not want to think about morbid subjects. And I cannot stand hospital stories on the TV!
What helped me when I was sick? One of the things I appreciated was all those get-well cards and letters. It was so encouraging to know that so many were thinking about me. When you are sick, you do not always feel like receiving visitors, but their cards are very welcome. Of course, when visitors came, I appreciated those who were upbuilding and positive in their comments. No one wants to know about some relative who died of cancer three years ago! So sensitivity to feelings is appreciated when visitors come to see the sick.
Of course, as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, my faith has sustained me greatly. To the degree possible, I have also kept busy in the Christian ministry. Preaching and teaching the Bible’s hope of God’s new system and the resurrection has helped to deepen my own faith. Now, in 1986, I am happy that I am still alive and able to fill my life with activity in Jehovah’s service.—Contributed.
Progress in cancer therapy in recent years has enabled some patients to require only simple lumpectomy. However, the choice of treatment depends on many factors.—Ed.